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Report of Monday Morning Meeting on “Developments in Pakistan Since the Fall of the Imran Government”

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  • April 25, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting
    1000 hrs

    Event Report

    The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised a talk on “Developments in Pakistan Since the Fall of the Imran Government” by Senior Fellow, Dr. Ashok K. Behuria at MP-IDSA on 25 April 2022, at 10AM in Seminar Hall I. Dr. Nazir Ahmad Mir, Research Assistant at MP-IDSA was the moderator. The talk was attended by all scholars at MP-IDSA.

    Executive Summary

    Imran tried his best to retain power by all means and resorted to undemocratic means to deny his opponents any chance of coming to power. However, he could not stop the trust vote and had to leave office after losing the vote. Despite all this, he retains his popularity and might well come back to power in the next elections. The army might have stayed neutral in the current political scenario but is unlikely to quit on Imran Khan. Shehbaz Sharif may find it difficult to steer his government through the economic crisis and the political snares he is faced with given the political opportunism being displayed by his coalition partners. Whosoever comes to power in the next elections is not likely to reverse Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir and India, which is largely being dictated by the military establishment in Pakistan.

    Detailed Report

    The talk by Dr. Behuria drew attention to Imran’s rallies after he lost the trust vote in the National Assembly and said that the large crowds that he had managed to attract in Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore indicated that Imran Khan continued to be popular among the people of Pakistan. During the rallies, he said that the Judiciary, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the powers-that-be (the deep state) had a role in his ouster. He stuck to his allegation of foreign conspiracy (meaning the US) resulting in the defections from his coalition and tabling of the no trust motion against him leading to the fall of his government and demanded early elections to get rid of the ‘imported’ government of Shehbaz Sharif.

    Dr. Behuria pointed out that the recent National Security Committee meeting as well as the previous one disagreed with Imran’s allegations and held that there was no conspiracy afoot to oust Imran. He said that Imran Khan might have been outvoted in the national assembly but it is too early to count him out of the Pakistani political calculus, which was also acknowledged by the army chief in his closed door address to the army veterans a few days after the new government was sworn in.

    Asked about the prospects of the Shehbaz Sharif Government, Dr. Behuria held that he was heading a messy coalition where the constituent parties were pulling in different directions and it would be difficult to hold them together for long. He also said that the new government had assumed office at a very difficult time when the country was facing an economic crisis and in order to avail of the loan from IMF, Shehbaz would have to take unpopular decisions which would turn the people against him and indirectly boost Imran’s electoral prospects further.

    He was of the opinion that if the elections were to be delayed till 2023, when the term of the present National Assembly would end, the anti-incumbency factor might kick in to the benefit of Imran and the latter could even get majority. Therefore, the army would, in all probability, play it safe and wait it out rather than betting on any one of the parties at the moment. He indicated nonetheless that sections within the army might be backing Imran even today while the top echelons might be playing neutral, because Imran, the maverick that he is, had apparently gone against their wishes and visited Russia at an inappropriate time and had unnecessarily jeopardised Pakistan’s relations with the US.

    Talking about the impact on India, Dr. Behuria said that the ground reality would suggest that the new government as well as the government that would follow it after the elections might not be able to change the direction of Pakistan’s policy towards India, which was being decided by the military of Pakistan. He also indicated that there was an overemphasis on resolution of Kashmir issue through United Nations resolutions and the Pakistani establishment knew fully well that it was a red herring for India. Therefore, there was no possibility of any fruitful engagement between the two countries beyond exchange of courtesy messages indicating mutual desire for peace and normalisation.

    During the talk, Dr. Behuria also drew attention to the Information Warfare being waged by Pakistan and held that the Indian response has not been that effective in neutralising the spurious narratives on Kashmir and Indian democracy being spread by Pakistan. The Director General, MP-IDSA, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, expanded on this point and said that Pakistan was likely to resort to international propaganda in the days to come. Dwelling on the implications of all this on Kashmir, Dr. Behuria said that Pakistan had been trying to divert the attention of some of the constituents of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) towards Kashmir, but given the pressures on Pakistan on account of the Financial Action Task Force, it might find it difficult to launch them as a separate terrorist group especially when TTP-splinter groups might not agree to operate under other Kashmir-focused jihadi groups sponsored by Pakistan.

    In the Q&A session, Dr. Behuria, responding to queries, indicated that the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir had been more popular than the Indian narrative and there was a need for India to expose Pakistan’s terror strategy and its disinclination for constructive dialogue with India.

    The Director General, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, who had returned from a weeklong stay in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir said that situation in Kashmir was not in favor of Pakistan. Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA said that Information Warfare is something where a lot of attention has to be paid by everyone which includes different branches of the government.

    The Report has been prepared by Mr. Jay Desai, Intern, MP-IDSA.